You might not think the National Cannabis Industry Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and National Mining Association have much in common.
But they have this: Lobbyists for these organizations have donated money to the presidential campaign of Democrat Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist who has regularly castigated special interests and the government influence industry.
In fact, nearly two-dozen federally registered lobbyists have given money to Sanders’ presidential campaign, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of campaign finance records and data obtained from the Center for Responsive Politics.
Sanders has painted himself as a different kind of politician, running a different kind of campaign.
When he launched his presidential bid last May, he proclaimed: “Today, we stand here and say loudly and clearly that enough is enough. This great nation and its government belong to all of the people, and not to a handful of billionaires, their super PACs and their lobbyists.”
It’s a theme Sanders has revisited time and again — on the campaign trail, in advertisements and during debates against front-runner Hillary Clinton.
But unlike President Barack Obama, who refused campaign contributions from registered lobbyists, Sanders’ campaign confirmed it does not ban lobbyists from making contributions — even as Sanders has called on the Democratic Party to maintain a ban, implemented by Obama, on lobbyists giving to the Democratic National Committee.
Campaign officials declined to say whether Sanders would return, or otherwise dispose of, contributions received from registered lobbyists. They also declined to say whether the campaign would change its policy regarding donations from registered lobbyists.
“One of the many messages our campaign has effectively sent to the political establishment of this country is that the American people have had enough of the billionaire class buying elections,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told the Center for Public Integrity.
Added Mike Casca, Sanders’ rapid response director: "Bernie’s campaign is fueled by individual contributions averaging under $30 — not lobbyists bundling six figures at private events."
A Clinton campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.